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Jacqui Smith cracks down on gangs via computers, closets

You really could be nicked for wearing a loud shirt in a built-up area

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The government will hit gangs where it hurts - on the internet and in their wardrobes.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith today announced plans to insert provisions into the Policing and Crime Bill that would allow courts to impose a range of restrictions on individuals.

These include not allowing individuals to enter a "specified place", for example a gang's "territory", and banning them from using and threatening to use violence.

More bizarrely, perhaps, injunctions could be used to prevent individuals using the internet to encourage or facilitate violence. Lastly, courts would be able to prevent individuals wearing "particular items of clothing such as gang colours or balaclavas which prevent identification".

Jacqui said in a statement: "I am committed to doing all I can to support local communities and the police in tackling gang crime. Injunctions will ensure that we are on the front foot in tackling gangs and able to deliver swift control during periods of high tension."

Smith cited the experience of Birmingham City Council in using powers under the Local Government Act 1972, which secured 30 interim injunctions between August and December 2007 as part of a crackdown on gang activity.

This apparently saw a drop in firearms incidents and other nasties during the injunction surge. Once the injunction flurry ceased, gang related activity began to rise again. As an aside, the Home Office's statement adds: "It is not possible to say that injunctions were the sole driver for change."

We asked the Home Office why it needed to add these provisions to the bill - which has already had a second reading - if the powers are already available under the Local Government Act.

We also asked whether the injunctions would apply only to people actually convicted of offenses, or whether being seen with the wrong crowd would be enough.

Lastly, we wondered how many police would now patrol the net cracking down on gang-related social networking, and whether those same coppers would also be the style arbiters deciding what constitutes gang-related apparel.

We'll let you know when they get back to us.

In the meantime, the government hopes to get the injunctions plan operational by April 2010. ®

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